Jonathan Salem Baskin | June 29th 2012 | @EG_MgtThinking
It’s much easier to talk about engagement, conversation, and all the activities that brands spend billions annually to deliver. But doing so without addressing the basic human need for truth is like opening a beautiful new restaurant and neglecting to stock the kitchen. Or hanging an art museum full of empty frames. Or building bridges and roads to nowhere. It’s all process without meaning.
Here’s the deal: Entertainment is to new media what porn used to be to the Internet.
Entertainment is what got people involved and mildly enthused in the early days of social media, but it’s 2012 already and those days are over. Internet use is nearing ubiquity in most developed markets (and many that aren’t), and the aggregate numbers of people and hours spent using social technologies of one sort or another are in the many hundreds of millions. The social media revolution is over, and social media won.
In fact, the phrase is redundant now. There are no social media because all media are social. People are social, too. They always were. So we can stop pretending that our job as marketers is to present our branded content to consumers, encouraging them to socialize with one another, or otherwise finding ways to get them to waste their time.
Instead, we need to recognize what’s happening: They’re using peer-to-peer conversations to discover truths about businesses and institutions in their lives, and primarily relying on their most intimately close and real-world relationships upon which to get counsel and affirmation for their decisions.
And what are we doing? Perfecting our ability to be funny and irrelevant. Flushing billions down the toilet, which we then describe with buzzwords and congratulate one another with awards.
It’s 2012 and we marketers need to come to terms with the fact that people don’t wake up in the morning wishing they had closer relationships with their toothpaste brand, or hoping to converse more intimately with their favorite hamburger chain. It’s no longer enough to pretend that your brand (or government agency, or non-profit organization) is talking to people. They’re talking about what you and your work associates have chosen to do with your time and money, and they know that anything you present to them in whatever voice you assume had to have originated from other people, just like them, and not from your brand.
They also no longer trust what you have to say, so the language of their conversations...the very grammar of social experience...is made up of facts, personal experiences, trusted opinions, and collective wisdom, not the entertaining content you create.
Branding? That was a cutting-edge idea for communicators in the 1950s. The world has changed since then, and if you were strategizing your marketing communications for this environment instead of the one a half-century ago, you’d be doing it very differently. Making fewer emotional or associative claims for your product or service. Presenting information to the world in conjunction with third parties. Making small points that are inarguably true instead of trying to architect extended, broad arguments. Addressing what people already know and do instead of assuming you have the authority or capacity to “educate” them to go in another direction.
Want to have authority and credibility? Stop being stupid and doing everything you can to waste consumers’ time, however pleasantly. Stop trying to manipulate what they think or experience, and stop coming up with convoluted explanations for why your repeat failed experiments are actually successes.
Start telling them truths that they can choose to use or discard. It’s what they talk about. It’s time you did, too.